I want to start this post by saying I do not know everything there is to know about curriculum production, and I am in no way thinking of one curriculum company as I write this post. My goal in this post is to hopefully create a dialogue or even to get us as children’s pastors to ask hard questions of ourselves and of the curriculum we give our teams to teach our kids each week.
I personally believe that there are some problems that are systemic in the children’s ministry curriculum arena. I have been a kids’ pastor full time for nearly 14 years and have used every curriculum under the sun. Here are some of the problems that led to a few of my fellow kids’ pastors and me writing our own curriculum for Easter.
1. Kids’ curriculum typically falls in two camps: fun or Biblically accurate – Rarely does a curriculum do both well. This to me is very sad, because it says that the things we are using to teach our kids this precious hour we are given each week are not engaging nor are they transformational. The end result is a watered-down, weak, uninspiring introduction to the most engaging transformational person in human history.
2. Too safe – I sadly get the feeling that most curriculum is made way too safe so it appeals to every type of church in America. The problem I have with this is not that people are trying to make money selling curriculum; it’s that they are leaving out some really important stuff to broaden their appeal. For example, there is rarely a mention of the Holy Spirit in any kids’ curriculum out there. I know there are some abuses in people’s theology when it comes to the Holy Spirit, but He is the third person of the Godhead. There are definitely some things we can teach kids about the Holy Spirit without delving into strangeness. Other topics I think need to be addressed more to our kids and they aren’t: Jesus in the Old Testament, what is the gospel, communion, baptism are a just a few. My opinion is that if the things you are writing or teaching don’t offend anyone, they probably are not Biblically accurate. Jesus offended others with the truth all the time.
3. Scalability – It seems that most people who write curriculum are not from a local church. Even though people on staff used to be kids’ pastors, time makes you forget. There is something about understanding what activities would work best in a class setting in a small church and a large church. Great super creative activities play out differently in a brainstorming session than they do in a room full of 2-year-olds.
4. Lack of a pastoral perspective – I am not a professional educator. I have crazy amounts of respect for people who are and routinely ask for their wisdom. I would be crazy not to. There is, however, something to be said for the perspective of someone whose gift is the pastoring of people. This is one of the main reasons people write their own curriculum, and quite honestly, the very people who recognize this problem are typically not the most gifted at writing curriculum. There needs to be better dialog between pastors and writers. They need each other’s perspective to be better at what they individually do best.
5. Lack of Christ-centeredness – I think most curriculum tries to be everything to everyone. The end result is the gospel message is not clearly communicated. As much as curriculums out there talk about Jesus, I am not sure if they communicate the message of Christ clearly enough. If kids know all about the Bible but don’t understand the Gospel, we have lost a huge opportunity.
6. Moralism – In our quest to teach kids concrete ideas about faith with application, we have to be very careful not to make the point of the story about us and not about Jesus. I don’t want my kids to be kind. I want my kids to understand that, because of what Christ did for me, I am empowered to love beyond my capacity. I want every kid who leaves Uptown to understand the gospel, because in my opinion, we are seeing kids leave the faith because they never understand what the gospel is. The gospel is compelling. The last thing any of us want to produce is “good kids” because good kids don’t make a difference in this world—Christ-centered, gospel-empowered kids do.
In closing, I just want to say that I in no way mean to offend anyone, but if you are offended, my beef is not with you per se. My goal is to create a dialogue for us to ask hard questions so our kids can benefit and Christ can be magnified. I am not selling anything or pushing a particular product. Lastly, don’t just complain—do something about it. Be part of the solution not just a part of the problem. Whatever you use, make it better, and push the people who make what you use to make it better, because it’s not about you and me. It’s about the kids who listen every week to the greatest story ever.